DirectorJemaine Clement & Taiki Waititi
Release Date(s)2015 (July 21, 2015)
Studio(s)Shadow Pictures (Paramount Pictures)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A
Horror comedies of the last few years or so have been kind of dull. Everything seems to have paled in comparison to Shaun of the Dead, which is a nearly perfect (if not a thoroughly perfect), movie. People like Christopher Guest still make mockumentaries occasionally, but there aren’t too many horror mockumentaries, at least to my knowledge. That’s why something like What We Do in the Shadows feels like such a breath of fresh air.
The premise is relatively straightforward: a group of documentary filmmakers have been granted access into the private lives of a group of ancient vampires living together in a flat in New Zealand. We learn about their nightly existence as they venture out into the world for victims, constantly stuck with first world problems like doing the dishes, being invited into clubs, and cleaning up their flat. After receiving an invitation to a yearly gathering of vampires, werewolves, and zombies, they must put aside their differences and attend the biggest party of the year. They must also protect their newly-formed human friend from being devoured.
In the vein of This is Spinal Tap, What We Do in the Shadows treats us to some excellent comedy within the world presented, while at the same time treating the horror elements with respect. The comedy comes from the interplay between all of the characters, all of which have their own distinct personalities and motivations. All of the characters have interesting quirks about them, and the comedy comes honestly because of it. There’s nothing particularly trend-setting about the film as it’s a lot of imagery we’ve seen before, but it takes ideas from found footage movies, mockumentaries, and comedies and makes you fall in love with it because of its characters. It’s not a discourse on the genre per se, but more of a charming anecdote to the style and ideas within the genre.
It should be no surprise that the film is so enjoyable, being that it comes from the folks that worked on both Flight of the Conchords and Boy. It was originally a short film but got the chance to be a full length feature much later and, honestly, it’s one of my favorite films of the year. Nevermind that it has horror elements, it’s just a fun movie that is both highly watchable and rewatchable. It’s also destined to be a cult classic, in my opinion.
The video presentation on the Blu-ray of What We Do in the Shadows is a very organic-looking one. Shot with a Red Epic, it’s absolutely soaked with fine detail, in all aspects. Both background and foreground elements have an equal amount of crispness to them. Colors, although appropriately muted at times, are still quite bold and striking. Black levels are very deep, revealing a lovely amount of shadow detail. Contrast and brightness levels are virtually perfect. The only real problem with the transfer is the presence of some noise, but otherwise, it’s a very crisp presentation. The audio portion is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD. Obviously, the main focus in a mix of a film like this is the dialogue, which is front and center and perfectly clear. However, the surround speakers are used to good effect for ambience and sound effects. The various music cues used throughout the movie also have plenty of life to them, and there’s some surprising use of LFE, although sparse. All in all, this is a top-notch presentation of the film. There are also subtitles in English and English SDH for those who might need them.
There’s also a wealth of supplemental material to dig through. There’s an audio commentary with Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi; Behind the Shadows, which is an assembly of on-set footage; a set of deleted and extended scenes (12 in all); a set of Video Extras, which includes more cut footage from the film (Erotic Deacon, Viago Sings, Vlad Paints, Vlad’s Poetry, Jackie the Familiar, Night Dentist, What Stu Does, Vampire & Werewolf Dance), plus the original short film; a set of extended on-set Interviews with some of the characters (Deacon, Viago, Vladislav, Police, Werewolves, The Zombie); a set of Promo Videos (Hobbies, Hypnosis, Feelings, Werewolves, Reflections, Going Out); and a poster gallery.
If you’re a fan of mockumentaries or horror comedies, What We Do in the Shadows should be on your list of movies to see. And this Blu-ray release of the film should be on your immediate list of titles to pick up if you haven’t already. Highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons